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HAPPENINGText: Kanya Niijima

The second annual San Francisco Electronic Music Festival took place May 3rd to May 6th, featuring composers and sound artists from Bay Area, Seattle, LA, and Tokyo. No, this is not exactly the city’s official rave party. The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, despite its suggestive name, is far from the common association of electronic music with popular trends.

No ordinary dance music does the festival offer, instead, it focuses on a front line of sound based experiments reinventing the existing definition of electronic music. In fact, it goes beyond stereotypical “music festivals” where the predominant stimulation is aural. Rather, it is akin to art installations – not only does it provoke the auditory senses but multi sensory components, especially visual, play a big part in the presentation.

Atau Tanaka, a participating musician at the event, as an example, performed “Rail,” a sound/visual complex using motion detection sensors as a musical instrument. On the stage he wears this instrument, BioMuse, specifically designed to track electronic charges occurring in the human body via the sensors. As he moves his body, BioMuse then translates every muscle movement of the player, and converts the generated signals into sounds and images.

As if he were practicing fast Tai Chi moves on the stage, Tanaka’s motion synchronously controls various sounds. Tones, volumes, tempos, and any other audio properties are also manipulated. Simultaneously the body signals extracted via BioMuse trigger multiple image sequences that are video-projected on the screen, creating a complete integration of sound and visual via the performer’s motions.

Total of 18 composers/musicians performed their individual work during the 4 day festival. Each artist, although there’s a wide spectrum of representations in forms and aesthetics, consistently showed progressive, new interpretations of culture and music via creative use of technology. The official web site has each performer’s link as well as some inspiring sample MP3 files.

San Francisco Electronic Music Festival 2001
Date: May 3rd – 6th, 2001
Place: Cellspace, 7hz, & Southern Exposure

Text: Kanya Niijima

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